BALTIMORE — Back in April, at the Baltimore Orioles’ final workout before heading to New York for Opening Day, Manager Brandon Hyde announced his team’s season-opening rotation. It included Nate Karns as an opener sandwiched between Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy.
The term opener spread throughout baseball thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics, who commonly used a reliever for a game’s first inning or two before a pitcher more often used as a starter handled the bulk of a game.
But the Orioles never truly used the method this season. Although Karns was coined an opener, he was instead the first of a series of short-usage pitchers in a what would more accurately be described as a bullpen game.
In Baltimore’s 5-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Camden Yards, the Orioles showed the benefits of using an opener when executed properly. Opener Richard Bleier and bulk man Aaron Brooks combined to cover all nine innings, with Brooks following Bleier with seven one-hit innings.
“That was the best we’ve seen Brooksy all year,” Hyde said. “It was three pitches for strikes, really in control the entire time, gave up one hit, one walk in seven innings. Pitched ahead in the count. Got some big strikeouts. Just had a lot of composure tonight.”
Making his first major league start after 159 career relief appearances, Bleier got two quick outs in the first before yielding a two-run home run.
Adolfo Ledo Nass
But Bleier retired four of the next five Mariners before giving way to Brooks, who had started in his first 12 outings for the Orioles but posted a 14.25 first-inning ERA. Not pitching in the first led to one of Brooks’s best performances with Baltimore. He allowed just one run in seven innings.
— Baltimore Sun